Down on the farm

farm anatomy

As an urban twenty-something with a CSA farm share, a crush on Michael Pollan, and the occasional yearning to dangle tomato plants from my third-story apartment windows, I think a bit too much about where my food comes from. I often wonder how much of my insanity I will impart upon my future offspring. Will […]

When the Name of the Game Is a Children’s Book

Children's lit board games

Yes, it’s the digital age; but enhancing the experience of reading a children’s book doesn’t have to happen only on a screen. A board game based on a children’s book is an alternative, low-tech option that allows players to experience the world of a book in a new form. In children’s book–based board games, players […]

Story smorgasbord

YouChoose

“If you could go anywhere, where would you go?” The sky’s the limit in Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart’s You Choose (Kane Miller, March), an interactive book (originally published in the U.K. in 2003) where kids call the shots in their own narrative. Sharratt’s bright and friendly cartoon illustrations invite readers into pages filled with […]

Chapter books you’ve been waiting for

Ivy and Bean No News is Good News

There’s nothing like a familiar protagonist, setting, and illustrations to make easing into a new book a smooth ride for young readers. Two of these chapter books are entries in popular series; one is a sequel to an award-winning book from New Zealand; and one, while not part of a series, will be sure to […]

Young (adult) love

The Fault in Our Stars

Whether Valentine’s Day puts you in the mood for a heartwarming read or a heartbreaking one, these four new YA novels about love (and love lost) offer some of each. In Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Hadley misses her flight to London, where she’s grudgingly going to her father’s […]

Nonfiction for primary-age readers

Secrets of the Garden

Food chains, Arctic migration, animal communication, and evolution: four new picture books for young readers take on some complex and fascinating topics. In Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld’s Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard, narrator Alice tells readers how her family grows edible plants, raises chickens, and interacts with a […]

Race relations

Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the Civil Rights Movement

Two works of nonfiction about the struggle over civil rights in the South and one historical-fiction graphic novel set at the turn of the previous century offer middle school readers context on race in this country. Rick Bowers’s 2010 book Spies of Mississippi: The True Story of the Spy Network That Tried to Destroy the […]

Mythology-themed books

The books recommended below were published within the last several years. Grade levels are only suggestions; the individual child is the real criterion.   PICTURE BOOKS Suggested grade level listed with each entry. Young Zeus by G. Brian Karas (Scholastic) Simple, colloquial language renders myth into farce, with cartoonlike characters ranging from the appealing boy […]

Picture books for Presidents’ Day

George Washington's Birthday

In time for Presidents’ Day observations, these new books give elementary-age readers insight into three towering figures in American history. In George Washington’s Birthday: A Mostly True Tale, Margaret McNamara debunks the famous cherry tree fable plus others, intermingling them with real facts to imagine Washington’s seventh birthday. Boxed notes distinguish truth from fancy, and […]

On black history

We March

A picture book tribute to a seminal event in the civil rights story, a collection of poems about the Underground Railroad, and a nonfiction account of the civil rights era for older readers: three recent books pay homage to the struggles and triumphs of African Americans — just in time for honoring black history next […]